Methods of Primary Research

Written by jim clayton
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Methods of Primary Research
Primary research can be valuable to businesses. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

When research is gathered first-hand rather than using secondary sources, it is called primary research. Primary research is typically designed to answer precise questions for the researcher. This sort of research is commonly used by businesses to gather data about their target markets or products. It can be particularly valuable when launching new products or services.

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Interviews are the most common form of primary research. A well-prepared interview can be a good way to gather detailed information about a subject. Preparations should include a series of questions and follow-ups designed to elicit the needed information, as much as background on the interviewee as possible and a way to record the conversation. Because of technology advances, it is now easier than ever to conduct interviews. Interviews can done in-person, over the phone, via e-mail or video chat, or even through a texting device such as a cell phone. As an interviewer and researcher, it is important to keep the focus of the conversation on those things wished to be learnt.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are other common forms of primary research. As in interviewing, it is always best to have a well-defined plan before beginning a survey or questionnaire. Some things that should be included in a survey plan include who is going to be surveyed, how they will access the survey (that is, will it be on paper, in-person or on the Internet?), will the survey include closed-ended or open-ended questions, what are the demographics of the targeted market and the number of people to be surveyed.

Focus Groups

Primary research can also include focus groups. A focus group is a group of people brought together to discuss their thoughts, opinions and feelings about a specific topic, product or service. Focus groups can provide invaluable information to a researcher because it is the one form of primary research in which the participants are allowed to interact with other participants. There is a moderator or leader of the discussion to keep the group on task, but a goal of a focus group is to encourage the free flow of ideas and opinions from the participants.

Observations and Notes

Some critical but sometimes overlooked aspects of primary research are notes and observations. Observations can play a key role in data gathering. As a primary researcher, it is important to determine how you are going to observe and take notes. Some researchers like to take an active role in the research by participating in the research event, while others take a more passive role and simply sit back and watch. Any notes a researcher records should be a record of what he observed rather than his personal feelings or thoughts.

Data Analysis

Once all of the data has been collected, then it is time for the researcher's main job to begin: interpreting the data. This process consists of organising, evaluating and presenting all of the data gained from the research. The researcher should also keep in mind the original question(s) the research was designed to answer and how the data can be used answer those questions. A good data analysis should include charts, graphs and text that support the conclusion of the researcher.

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